CRIMETIME/Short-Term Mindsets and Crime

Why are some people more likely to commit crime than others? Answers to this question, which is at the heart of criminology, can be grouped into two broad views. On the one hand, dispositional perspectives argue that stable factors within the individual, such as lack of self-control, lie at the roots of criminal conduct. Sociogenic perspectives, on the other hand, put the locus of study outside the individual and point towards factors such as rough neighborhoods, parental unemployment, and deviant peers, as the main causes of crime. In spite of ample empirical support for both views, there has been relatively little constructive engagement with each other.
The ERC funded CRIMETIME project (ERC Consolidator Grant 772911) aims to address this gap in the current knowledge base by outlining and testing a new perspective on criminal behavior that integrates both views. This perspective is premised on the idea that short-term mindsets encourage crime and specifies how both individual dispositions and sociogenic variables can encourage such mindsets. We test this theory using a combination of longitudinal research and behavioral field experiments.
Besides aiming to mend the current theoretical disconnect in criminology and providing the foundation for an integrative paradigm, the research program goes a step further by using the paradigm as the basis for a behavioral intervention to reduce crime. Virtual reality technology in combination with a smartphone application are used to instill a future-oriented mindset in offenders. The objective is not only to improve our understanding of delinquency but also to provide a template for a scalable and evidence-based intervention to reduce it.

Research output: Two dissertations, scientific articles, a monograph, several conferences, smartphone application, virtual environment.
Funding: This research is funded by an ERC Consolidator Grant [Grant Number 772911–CRIMETIME].
Selected scientific output:

  • van Gelder, J. L., Averdijk, M., Ribeaud, D., & Eisner, M. (2020). Sanctions, short‐term mindsets, and delinquency: Reverse causality in a sample of high school youth. Legal and Criminological Psychology, 25(2), 199-218.
  • Cornet, L. J., & Van Gelder, J. L. (2020). Virtual reality: a use case for criminal justice practice. Psychology, Crime & Law, 26(7), 631-647.

Team mem­bers & pro­jects:

  • Jean-Louis van Gel­der (PI)
  • Job van der Schalk – se­ni­or re­se­ar­cher & Li­za Cor­net – post­doc
    Re­se­arch shows that de­lin­quent be­ha­vi­or is stron­gly cha­rac­te­ri­zed by short­sigh­ted­ness. Of­fen­ders tend to over­e­sti­ma­te the mo­re di­rect be­ne­fits of be­ha­vi­or, whi­le the long-term con­se­quences are of­ten un­de­re­sti­ma­ted. One of the as­s­ump­ti­ons in this re­se­arch pro­ject is that by strengt­he­ning fu­ture-ori­en­ted thin­king and ac­ting, de­lin­quent be­ha­vi­or can be re­du­ced. Exis­ting ju­di­ci­al in­ter­ven­ti­ons al­rea­dy re­spond to this idea, but re­se­arch shows that most be­ha­vi­oral in­ter­ven­ti­ons ha­ve li­mi­ted suc­cess in re­du­cing de­lin­quent be­ha­vi­or. De­par­ting from pre­vious at­t­empts to in­still a ‘long-term mind­set’, in the cur­rent in­ter­ven­ti­on young of­fen­der and stu­dent samp­les will be con­fron­ted with a vi­vid ver­si­on of their ‘fu­ture self’. Pre­vious re­se­arch has shown that in­ter­ac­ti­on with a vi­vid ver­si­on of the fu­ture self can po­si­tive­ly in­flu­ence be­ha­vi­or in the he­re and now. The in­ter­ven­ti­on being de­ve­lo­ped con­sists of two parts: a vir­tu­al rea­li­ty in­ter­ven­ti­on in which par­ti­ci­pants in­ter­act with and em­bo­dy their fu­ture self in vir­tu­al rea­li­ty, and a smart­pho­ne ap­p­li­ca­ti­on in which par­ti­ci­pants in­ter­act with their fu­ture self.
  • Jes­si­ca Deit­zer – post­doc
    Harsh and un­pre­dic­ta­ble en­vi­ron­ments are lin­ked to ne­ga­ti­ve out­co­mes, in­clu­ding cri­me. Short-term mind­sets are of­ten view­ed as an ir­ra­tio­nal de­fi­cit; yet, in harsh and un­pre­dic­ta­ble en­vi­ron­ments whe­re the fu­ture is seen as less sta­ble and gua­ran­teed, in­di­vi­du­als may opt to fo­cus on the pre­sent. Im­pul­si­ve or ris­ky ac­ti­on can be ad­ap­ti­ve in such en­vi­ron­ments and it is no lon­ger ra­tio­nal to de­li­be­ra­te ba­sed on long-term re­wards and costs if in­di­vi­du­als see their fu­ture as short, ho­pe­less, or out of their con­trol. So-cal­led un­pre­dic­ta­bi­li­ty sche­mas may act as me­dia­tor of the as­so­cia­ti­on of harsh and un­pre­dic­ta­ble en­vi­ron­ments with short-term mind­sets and/or of­fen­ding. In this pro­ject, I em­ploy lon­gi­tu­di­nal da­ta col­lec­ted from Z-Pro­so and PRO­SPER Peers to in­ves­ti­ga­te whe­ther harsh and un­pre­dic­ta­ble en­vi­ron­ments are as­so­cia­ted through un­pre­dic­ta­bi­li­ty sche­mas with short-term mind­sets, then cri­me.
  • Ben­ja­min Gan­schow – PhD-stu­dent
    My pro­ject fo­cu­ses on hel­ping young peo­ple ma­ke mo­re fu­ture-ori­en­ted de­ci­si­ons through fee­ling mo­re connec­ted to who they want to be­co­me – their fu­ture self. This pro­ject ex­plo­res how we con­struct this connec­ti­on to our fu­ture sel­ves in ado­le­scence through ana­ly­zing lon­gi­tu­di­nal da­ta, but al­so how it can be im­pro­ved through in­ter­ven­ti­ons. We at­t­empt to im­pro­ve this connec­ti­on through ap­p­ly­ing clas­sic per­spec­ti­ve ta­king and men­tal con­tras­ting stra­te­gies, but al­so in com­bi­na­ti­on with vir­tu­al rea­li­ty and age-mor­phing soft­wa­re. Vir­tu­al rea­li­ty may help du­ring per­spec­ti­ve ta­king as it can trans­port the per­son in the bo­dy, and pos­si­b­ly the mind, of their fu­ture self.

  • Se­bas­ti­an Kü­bel – PhD-stu­dent
    Pri­or re­se­arch has found that vic­tims and of­fen­ders sha­re a num­ber of cha­rac­te­ri­stics and in fact are of­ten one and the sa­me per­son. That is, vic­tims are mo­re li­ke­ly to of­fend, and of­fen­ders ha­ve a hig­her pro­pen­si­ty to get vic­ti­mi­zed. My pro­ject ex­ami­nes how short-term mind­sets might ac­count for this re­la­ti­on­ship. Pre­vious re­se­arch has shown short-term mind­sets to pre­dict not on­ly cri­me but al­so to be re­la­ted to vic­ti­mi­za­ti­on. In my pro­ject, I ap­p­ly a cau­sal per­spec­ti­ve to the vic­tim-of­fen­der over­lap and ex­ami­ne the hy­po­the­sis that being vic­ti­mi­zed is an aver­si­ve event that re­in­forces short-sigh­ted­ness and, as a re­sult, may al­so lead to in­cre­a­sed de­lin­quen­cy. The pro­ject uses da­ta from the Zu­rich pro­ject on the So­ci­al De­ve­lop­ment of Child­ren and Youths.

Ex­ter­nal col­la­bo­ra­tors: